Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:57 AM
Sunday's Week 3 Essentials
Editor's Note: Antony Dinero has connected on 12 of his last 17 guaranteed plays (70.6%, +645). Don't miss out on NFL winners from Antony Dinero on VegasInsider.com this sesaon. Click to win!
Broncos at Packers (-7 /42.5), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Vic Fangio came up on the wrong side of a Bears field goal again last week. The former Chicago defensive coordinator who lost his shot an NFC divisional playoff when Cody Parkey missed is 0-2 as a head coach in Denver due to replacement Eddy Pineiro hitting the biggest field goal of his life. Sometimes it’s not your year. Fangio has seen his defense play well enough to win but the Joe Flacco-led offense has averaged 15 points. Making matters worse is that 21 of their 30 points on the season have come in the fourth quarter when playing from behind. They’ve scored no touchdowns in the first three quarters of their opening two games despite Flacco firing off 81 passes. Flacco has demonstrated some chemistry with veteran Emmanuel Sanders and has looked for the dynamic Courtland Sutton but now faces a Green Bay secondary that has excelled in wins over division rivals Chicago and Minnesota, giving up 9.5 points behind new coordinator Mike Pettine.
Aaron Rodgers is feeling much healthier this season, so this should also be a great test for the Broncos’ defense. Ironically, it was Khalil Mack, at the helm of Fangio’s Bears defense, who hurt Rodgers last September, so he’ll need to be wary of the likes of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. He’s 4-1 against Fangio defenses over the past three seasons, throwing 10 TDs and just one INT despite coming up empty in a 24-17 loss when he last saw him on Dec. 16. Denver’s defense will be missing LB Joe Jones but otherwise should be at full strength to try and keep Rodgers from finding a rhythm. Green Bay is just 7-6-1 straight up at Lambeau Field over its last 14 home games, so it will be looking to re-establish that edge as it plays the second game of a four-game stretch of home games over a five-week span. Rookie head coach Matt LaFleur and his new offense has only averaged 15.5 points but he’s got a great shot at a fantastic start if Rodgers remains upright and his defense continues to dominate. Rain is expected to factor in all day in Green Bay, where thunderstorms could roll in as the game unfolds.
Lions at Eagles (-5/45.5), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The Eagles were sabotaged by injuries in Atlanta last weekend and were still just a half-yard away from being in position to rally past the Falcons despite the absence of Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Dallas Goedert and star TE Zach Ertz, who got banged up despite staying in on the final drive as he wound up participating in every snap. Carson Wentz played poorly in the first half and couldn’t rescue the result, which dropped Philly to 1-1 for the third straight season. Doug Pederson is 3-0 in Week 3 since taking over in ’16 but has won tight home games that hung in the balance until the game’s final play and resulted in failed covers each of the past two years. Jeffery is unlikely to play due to a calf injury, although he may warm up and try to gut it out if he loosens up enough. Jackson has already been ruled out, but the team is hopeful Goedert can play and will have to ride with Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins and rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside as the main receivers against an underrated Lions secondary .
Detroit held the visiting Chargers to just 10 points and has been largely dominant on the defensive end with the exception of getting carved up by Kyler Murray in the fourth quarter of their Week 1 tie at Arizona. The Lions allowed 21 points in down the stretch in Glendale and have surrendered 16 points over the other seven quarters. They could get a boost with top LB Jarrad Davis making his debut, so Wentz and Philly may have their hands full moving the ball effectively if Jeffery remains out. Nelson Agholor could get a boost in targets but has remained hit-or-miss due to drops and would have to see more of Darius Slay if he’s the No. 1. Detroit has won three of the past four meetings between these teams, beating former head coach Jim Schwartz in his first season as Eagles coordinator 24-23 behind three Matthew Stafford TD passes.
Ravens at Chiefs (-5.5/52), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Lamar Jackson’s great start passing the ball sets up this beauty of a matchup against Patrick Mahomes in a battle of two of the NFL’s four highest-scoring teams through two games. Kansas City (34.0) actually ranks No. 4 with everyone looking up at Baltimore and its gaudy 41-point average, but there’s no question most have taken a wait-and-see approach with Jackson since he’s torched the hopeless Dolphins and a young Cardinals team missing Patrick Peterson. The Chiefs aren’t the ’85 Bears on the defensive end, but did blank the Raiders over the final three quarters last week and have added pieces like Frank Clark, Darron Lee and Tyrann Mathieu who still haven’t gotten comfortable. If Jackson is able to light up the Chiefs on the road and we get a full blown circus of a shootout at Arrowhead today, it would be hard to deny the Ravens’ quarterback’s emergence. Top RB Mark Ingram (kidney) and productive tight end Mark Andrews (foot), who has emerged as Jackson’s favorite target, have been cleared to play. Corner Jimmy Smith and safety Brynden Trawick are out.
Mahomes should continue to thrive despite the absence of Tyreek Hill given how nicely he’s spread the ball around, but the protection left tackle Eric Fisher provides should be tougher to replace since he’ll be out of the lineup for an extended period due to core surgery. Cam Erving took over for most of last week’s win against Oakland but the veteran interior lineman isn’t as mobile. RB LeSean McCoy is expected to have a heightened role with Damien Williams out, so he could be in for a breakout game after practicing in full coming off an ankle issue. Early thunderstorms are expected in Kansas City, so check the forecast to see whether the weather is clearing up since that could potentially rain out plans for that aforementioned shootout.
Bengals at Bills (-6/43.5), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The Bengals had a rough home opener in losing to San Francisco 41-17 and will be on the road in Buffalo and Pittsburgh the next few weeks, so first-year head coach Zac Taylor is hoping to stop the bleeding. Right tackle Cordy Glenn remains out with a concussion and LT Andre Smith and LG Michael Jordan have both been deemed questionable, with Jordan unlikely to start even if he can go. Cincinnati’s issues up front have impacted Joe Mixon and Andy Dalton as life without A.J. Green continues, so the Bills should have an opportunity to get after an offense again after really clamping down in wins over the Giants and Jets.
Impressive rookie RB Devin Singletary is out with an injured hamstring, but Frank Gore is healthy and running as hard as ever, so he and veteran T.J. Yeldon will be tasked with keeping QB Josh Allen in manageable drives. The raw second-year Bills quarterback managed to avoid being picked off last week and has a TD pass and a TD run in three straight games dating back to last season. The Bengals aren’t going to have DE Carl Lawson to help chase Allen down and a new linebacker corps has really struggled thus far. Buffalo is looking for its first 3-0 start since 2011 and hasn’t been this heavy a favorite since beating the Jets 21-12 to cover as a 7-point ‘chalk’ in 2017. The Bills closed last season by blowing out the Dolphins as a 5.5-point favorite in their last regular-season game at New Era Field.
Falcons at Colts (-1.5/47), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The Colts may have WR T.Y. Hilton (quad) and RB Marlon Mack (calf) in the lineup, but both will be game-time decisions and haven’t had much practice time this week. Top linebacker Darius Leonard has already been ruled out due to a concussion, so backups are going to have to emerge at home to keep Indy from losing this home opener as the post-Andrew Luck era officially begins. Jacoby Brissett threw three touchdown passes to help beat the Titans in Nashville last weekend but needs a full complement of weapons to try and hang with Matt Ryan and a healthy Falcons offense.
Surviving Philly’s frantic comeback bid on Sunday night really took some of the pressure off Dan Quinn and Dirk Koetter, and they can suddenly start thinking about getting the team headed in the right direction with the division up for grabs given the injuries to Drew Brees and Cam Newton. DT Ra’Shede Hageman is back, adding to Atlanta’s depth up front as they look to keep the Colts rom establishing the run in the manner they have thus far. Indianapolis has won 14 of 16 meetings against the Falcons but lost the last time they hosted a game in this series, falling 31-7 in 2011. Matt Hasselbeck helped beat Ryan when these teams last met in ‘15.
Raiders at Vikings (-9/43.5), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Jon Gruden’s young Raiders hit the road for the first time after splitting their first two divisional games against the Broncos and Chiefs and come in a little banged up. LB Vontaze Burfict injured an ankle against Kansas City last week and could be limited. Safety Lamarcus Joyner is nursing an injured groin, so an already thin secondary could struggle against the Vikings weapons, particularly if Burfict isn’t able to make the calls and get everyone working together. Offensively, Oakland does get back suspended guard Ritchie Incognito to try and get rookie Josh Jacobs going again after an illness and multiple lower body injuries.
The Vikings are expected to get CB Mike Hughes back, which should soften the blow of Mackensie Alexander being ruled out with an elbow injury. Linebacker Anthony Barr is likely a go as well, so the Vikings will try and rattle Derek Carr. After a great run on the road in 2016, Carr has thrown 15 interceptions and just 16 touchdowns over the past two seasons and doesn’t have a No. 1 receiver, relying mostly on lanky tight end Darren Waller as a security blanket. The Raiders have won 10 of 14 in the series but haven’t won in Minnesota since ’07 and lost the last meeting at home back in ’15 as Carr was picked off twice and then-Viking Adrian Peterson ran for over 200 yards.
Jets at Patriots (-21.5/43.5), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The number has swung back in the Jets’ direction after Antonio Brown’s release on Friday. After peaking in the 23/23.5-point range depending on the book, most have settled back at 21 points in this battle between divisional rivals. The Patriots will start Tom Brady and New York will send Luke Falk out there since starter Sam Darnold is out with mono and backup Trevor Siemian broke his ankle on Monday night. Defensive standouts Quinnen Williams, CJ Mosley and Jordan Jenkins have been ruled out and safety Jamal Adams unfollowed the team on social media after being unhappy with being benched for aggressive play. Offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele, Brian Winters and Kelvin Meachum all are banged up and the Jets will hit Foxboro off a short week. Although Adam Gase is plenty familiar with New England, he’ll be putting together a gameplan under less than ideal conditions.
The Patriots have Philip Dorsett ready to step back up in the role he was filling before Brown came aboard and should continue getting strong play out of Josh Gordon. Left tackle Marshall Newhouse and right tackle Marcus Cannon are expected to start, so Brady and the offense should have all the time they need against a Jets defense that has worn down in giving up big plays in the passing game, which doesn’t bode well for the Jets snapping a six-game losing streak against the Pats, who have won 14 of the last 16 matchups.
Dolphins at Cowboys (-22/47), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: With the Jets’ line dipping, the Dolphins again bear the brunt of being the week’s biggest underdog again. New England coasted to a cover of an 18-point spread with a 43-0 win, which means the Dolphins have been outscored 102-10 entering their first road game of the season. In order to inspire showing a little backbone, Brian Flores has named Josh Rosen the starting quarterback ahead of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Safety Reshad Jones is out again, so a defense that traded away major pieces isn’t going to be able to slow a versatile Cowboys offense that has lit up the Giants and Redskins in ranking fifth with a 33-points per game clip.
The Cowboys do have some answers to come up with after losing WR Michael Gallup to a knee injury, but Devin Smith was able to fill in nicely against Washington and is an x-factor here. Dallas will wrap as the largest favorite since 2013 and has only won a game by enough points to cover this spread four times over the past four seasons.
Giants at Bucs (-5.5/48), 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX: Tampa Bay picked up the first victory of Week 2 two Thursdays ago and is counting on extra preparation time to help make the difference against the winless Giants as rookie top pick Daniel Jones debuts. The Bucs won’t have their first-rounder, speedy linebacker Devin White, in addition to another linebacker in Devante Bond. The Bucs have been better than expected up front and will look to pressure Jones into mistakes but can’t be too aggressive since they’ll be vulnerable to screens given the presence of Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram.
Jameis Winston was much sharper against Carolina and avoided the critical mistakes that foiled the Bucs in their Week 1 loss to the 49ers. He’s going to need to do a better job involving Mike Evans and O.J. Howard, who have each gotten off to slow starts but square off against a secondary that has looked vulnerable thus far.
Panthers at Cardinals (-2/45), 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX: The Panthers will turn to Kyle Allen for the foreseeable future with Cam Newton looking to heal up from numerous physical ailments. He’s played briefly at this level, starting last season’s finale against Saints backups and throwing a pair of touchdown passes. The Scottsdale native is set to debut in front of family and will have his offense intact around him, so he’s got an opportunity to move the ball and increase his profile if he can take advantage of the absence of a secondary that is still missing the suspended Patrick Peterson.
The Cardinals have been behind in games most of the season, but rookie top pick Kyler Murray has impressed with his poise in the fourth quarter and has gotten his team a tie and two covers despite struggling against the Lions and Ravens. He’ll be better with more experience but has a legitimate chance to earn his first pro victory if he can avoid getting tricked by Luke Kuechly. DT Kawann Short has been scratched with a shoulder injury and pass rusher Bruce Irvin is out, leaving the Panthers a little thin as far as a pass rush goes. If Murray can get into a rhythm, this could be a tough spot for a Panthers defense that has had issues overshadowed by Newton’s injuries and throwing woes.
Steelers at 49ers (-6.5/43.5), 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: The Niners hope to open 3-0 for the first time since 1998, which makes them one of the NFL’s biggest surprises considering they’re favored to do so rather substantially here due to Ben Roethlisberger’s absence and picked up their first two victories on the road. No one is going to confuse the Bucs and Bengals with playoff-caliber teams, but the 49ers pulled away from both impressively, demonstrating an ability to create breakdowns on both sides of the ball. Last week’s rout of Cincinnati showcased depth since Jimmy Garoppolo rebounded from a rough first start by capitalizing on all the attention George Kittle received.
The Steelers are 0-2 after dropping games against the Patriots and Seahawks and will send Mason Rudolph out there for his first start. He threw for two scores and was intercepted once in a 28-26 loss to Seattle and will have to grow with Juju Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief and college teammate James Washington in what will likely turn into a rebuilding year if Rudolph can’t immediately produce a win that prevents an 0-3 start. RB James Conner will be out there to help ease everyone’s burden despite a knee injury that had his status in doubt earlier this week. Defensively, Pittsburgh will be without a pair of linebackers but will have safety Minkah Fitzgerald in the mix.
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA